Local News

Youth Home Proposal Unwelcome in Sanford Neighborhood

Posted March 18, 2008 7:44 p.m. EDT
Updated March 19, 2008 10:13 a.m. EDT

— Residents of a Sanford neighborhood say a proposed treatment center for troubled teens doesn't belong in their community.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution opposing the project, but officials said the city may be powerless in this situation.

Hawkins Avenue looks very welcoming. Big front porches seem to say, "Come on up, sit awhile."

Not everyone is getting a welcome, however.

"There's a lot of senior citizens here that plan to retire, and there's been a lot of work here in this area to try to spruce the area up," resident David Glass said.

"It'll just devastate the neighborhood," resident Jimmy Stewart said.

“It” is the proposed Whispering Pines Treatment Center. It would house boys ages 10 to 17 who have behavioral problems. They would have round-the-clock supervision.

The plan has residents worried about their own safety nonetheless, and more than 200 signed a petition against the facility's proposed location.

"The people are fearful of the kind of kids being treated there," Stewart said.

"Not to mention that it'll really affect property values," Glass added.

In 2000, the city rezoned a one-acre lot to office, institutional and multi-family use. That was done to allow for townhouses that were never built, but the zoning is still in place.

Sanford City Manager Hal Hegwer says there's little the city can do to ground the youth-home project at that site.

"Even if it was rezoned, we feel that there's enough precedent set there that the facility could locate," Hegwer said.

Reached by phone, the man who will be the owner of Whispering Pines, Andrew Lipsey, described the site as a good fit. He said the center will not have any convicted felons or sex offenders, only adolescent boys with conduct disorders.

Lipsey said it will look like a residential daycare center with a wooden privacy fence.

Neighbors say they support the mission, but not putting it in their neighborhood.

"We're not against the facility, and I’ve heard no one else say they're against the facility – just that they're against the location,” Stewart said. “We feel like it doesn't belong in a residential neighborhood."

The state Department of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services would regulate the center.

Lipsey said that right now, Hawkins Avenue is the only site in Sanford that he’s considering.

“We want to give the site a proper chance,” Lipsey said. “We believe it will be good for the city and good for us.”